Coraline by Neil Gaiman: The Collection from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Coraline "Not Caroline" Jones is one of the most dangerous things known to humanity: a smart kid who is bored. Unlike the young lumpenproletariat who merely engages in standard juvenile delinquency, these young masters of disaster make nitroglycerin in the bathtub, or hack into various federal agencies, or perform science experiments on their siblings. But even more than that: Coraline belongs to that elite class where their troublemaking is not restricted to this plane of existence. She travels to a world which is similar to ours but not quite. In this other world, there is her Other Mother and her Other Father--they're like Coraline's parents, but with crucial differences. Those being that her Other Parents pay attention to Coraline, cook her non-exotic food, and just basically love her to pieces. Even her neighbors are far more interesting and the whole apartment building seems alive with magic. Of course, everyone having buttons for eyes is a little off-putting. And the Other Mother seems really needy. Especially when she wants Coraline to stay and have buttons installed as well. Coraline is going to have to be very brave and very clever because the Other Mother simply does not take 'No' for an answer.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has translated many of Neil Gaiman's stories into olfactory landscapes so it only makes sense that they would tackle Coraline. So let us begin with our hero, Coraline Jones. Coraline is a young girl and while it is a bit stereotypical, girls do keep themselves cleaner than boys at the same age--so there is a light scent of soap and water. There is an earthy sweetness from mossy berries that adds to the girlishness. But Coraline is also not a girly girl. She is perfectly capable of taking care of herself when confronted with parents who don't have a clue or an extra-dimensional emotionally needy monster. As she has no problem exploring her own world or the mysterious Other World, there is a subtle but unmistakable undernote of grasses.

From young girls, we go to women of a certain age. Miss April Spink and Miss Miriam Forcible, neighbors to young Coraline, had a glorious career on the stage (according to them). While Coraline sees them as fairly ridiculous and odd, they do help her with the problems she is about to encounter. Both the scents for Miss Spink and Miss Forcible reflect the scents they wore when they were young and in the theatre. Miss Spink is a powerful mix of tuberose and gardenia that you notice--not offensively but it does have presence. Miss Forcible is a musk but one that is refined but a bit naughty, definitely not a scent one wears to be tawdry or obvious. Both scents harken back to a by-gone era that the two have successfully cocooned themselves in.

BPAL Coraline MISS SPINKBPAL Coraline MISS FORCIBLE

Another neighbor of Coraline's is Mr. Bobo or, as Coraline calls him, the Crazy Old Man Upstairs. While her description may be a bit cruel, Mr. Bobo does proclaim that he is training a mouse circus. So there's that. His scent reflects his Eastern European origins where you get many strange and aromatic herbs and a little pickled cabbage and cucumbers. Of course, since he is a proprietor of a mouse circus, there is a little hint of the fur of all those mice. Speaking of The Mouse Circus, they get their own scent. Don't worry, there are no offensive smells involving mouse.... leavings. It's all popcorn and sugar and vanilla and it's like sticking your head in a big bin of kettle corn. And as a aside, wouldn't a Cirque du Soleil production with mice be unbelievably cool...Cirque du Souris?

Speaking of mice, that gives us a fine segue into our last perfume, The Cat. The Cat dispenses wisdom to Coraline in a very, well, cat-like way. Instead of using his paws to "play," he uses information about the Other World and its belle dame sparingly to get Coraline to solve the problem herself. It would be a very short story if The Cat told her everything. Of course, this approach is quite irritating especially when accompanied with feline smugness. Coraline does get her own back, but you have to read the story to find out how. The fragrance is a warm mix of sweet yet deep benzoin and honey and cedar all surrounding a dark musk appropriate for a mysterious black cat.

BPAL Coraline cat

If you find this scents as enchanting as the book, go to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and get them. And remember, it is fine to explore but always be prepared to find that what you discover may be too good to be true.